LAWTON, OK (KSWO)-People from the deaf community gathered at Shepler Park this morning for a nationwide rally to raise awareness for some of the issues they face here in Lawton and throughout Oklahoma.
The mission of the "Deaf Grassroots Movement” is to expand and improve deaf and hard of hearing people's involvement through communication, education, and the workforce.
It was a low-key demonstration, with supporters simply holding signs with messages about equality for passers-by to see.
Rallies were also held in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Midwest City, and Sulphur at the same time today. Jan McMicheal is deaf and educates others on what can be done to make their lives easier.
"We want to be fair for everyone. Hearing and deaf need to be the same”, said McMicheal.
It’s frustrating to go out to eat with family and friends and not be understood. Having touch screen menus is one of the ways to help them. Activist Jose Santiago said changes need to be made.
"They don't have the same communication. People don't want to deal with it”, said Santiago.
Another issue they face is finding a job. According to the Deaf Grassroots Movement, about 75 percent of deaf people are either unemployed or underemployed because some employers are not use to seeing a deaf person apply for a job. So instead of trying to make that work they pass them over for another candidate who can gear.
"We need to have more interpreters everywhere no matter what”, said McMicheal.
To get involved you would have to learn the American Sign Language, take a test in Oklahoma City or Tulsa and then you will be a certified interpreter.
Joreta Rayez is the only certified interpreter in Lawton. She helps deaf people by talking on the phone, taking them to court or translating while they are on a doctor’s visit.
"Sometimes time is essence to say and when you are sitting there for not knowing and not able to communicate. Same thing with you, as a hearing person what if you didn't have that right and no one was wanting to help you communicate”, said Rayez.
Savannah Rood is the president of the American Sign Language Club at MacArthur High School. MacArthur is the only school in Lawton that gives students the opportunity to learn sign language and deaf culture.
"I have been wanting to learn a lot about and become an interpreter the deaf friends that I have made like Jan and Kathy. They need it and I see the frustration they have with not being able to communicate, because of that I want to spread deaf awareness”, said Rood.
The deaf community meets every 2nd Saturday at Starbucks for people to come out and get involved with them. For more information about this movement, visit their website.